Thursday, October 01, 2015

How to Prepare for a Government Shutdown

The country is once again facing an economic crisis, a looming government shutdown that could happen on October 1, 2015. Why can’t Congress approve the yearly spending bill prior to the Congressional summer recess to prevent last-minute efforts to approve a spending bill?

The Senate is expected to vote on a spending bill by September 29th. If the bill is approved it will be sent to the House of Representatives for their vote. This is a stop-gap spending measure that is aimed at buying time for Congress to reach a longer-term budget agreement that would fund spending through September 2016. A shutdown would affect federal employees, government consultants and contractors, nonprofits and other companies that receive federal funding as well as social services. They have to wait and see what happens on October 1st.  Unfortunately, the government does not properly communicate to federal employees or provide support when furloughs or government shutdowns occur or become a possibility.

The country’s financial crisis could be blamed on several people. However, as individuals we must take accountability for our actions. We spend the most money per person/family than all the others countries in the world.  We have become so obsessed with things and using credit that we have become addicted to shopping. 

It is disappointing that a catastrophic event or looming government shutdown has to occur to bring the country back to reality. No matter your income you must change your lifestyle and spending habits. You must make a permanent change when you are facing a financial crisis and to prevent a future crisis.  Here are 6 ways to ensure you are prepared for a government shutdown.

Live below your means
This means if you do not have the money to buy something you do not buy it. It also means, even if you do have the money to buy something do you really need to buy or do you just want it because you can buy it.  What will be the value of the item after you buy it, will it increase or decrease in value, can you sell it to make a profit, will buying this item enrich your life and just add to the collection of things you already own. 

Track Spending
A budget is a spending plan that shows how you spend your money. A spending plan identifies what you spend, what you earn and what you owe.  Once you know where you money is going, it is much easier to track your spending and see if there are any areas where you can cut back.  Subtract your total monthly income from your total monthly expenses and if you have a negative value or less than 10% of your income, you need to change your spending habits quickly.

If you live in a home that has extra rooms – rooms that are never used, lots of extra space and spend a lot of money in utility bills, or if you own a luxury car or mid-sized car that costs more than $20,000 you need to downsize. Trade in your car for a cheaper car with a smaller car note or buy a used car.  Rent out a room in your home to get extra money to pay down debt or pay for necessary expenses. 

Reduce spending
Reduce spending by 30%. Reduce expenses by buying in bulk, using coupons, buying only items that you need, or shopping at discount stores like Costco, Target, Wal-Mart or Walgreens. If you drink Starbucks coffee 5 days a week reduce it to 2 or 3 days a week. If you go to the barber or hair salon every week, start going every 2 weeks.  All of these little things add up and will make a difference in your spending plan.

Live for Tomorrow
Stop YOLO, FOLO, living for today, living day by day, paycheck by paycheck and plan for your future. If you don’t already have a retirement account get one. If you don’t have life insurance buy a policy as soon as possible. If you don’t have a savings account open one now. Contact a financial advisor create a financial plan and future goals. Living below your means and planning for your future make it easier to live for tomorrow. Ask yourself what do you want to be doing in the next 5 to 10 years, and then develop a plan to ensure you can achieve these things.

Take a few days to examine your emotions and acknowledge your situation. Review your situation and identify lessons learned to help you in the future. Do not make comments or go on emotional rants on social media or via email about your job, colleagues, supervisor or other employees. Avoid discussing your thoughts or feelings about the situation on social media. Social media is a permanent record of whatever you post even if you delete it so use your words carefully.  

Request a letter from your Human Resources department stating that you are without income due to a government shutdown. You may need this if the shutdown will cause you to pay your bills after the due date. If you are owed money from a company ask for the refund or credit. If someone owes you money ask for it now.

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